An Alternate Reality with Moon Duo & Thee Oh Sees at Sabertooth Microfest

Sabertooth Microfest has always fiercely surpassed Portland’s main festival lineups. This year’s festival was stacked with Black LipsMáscaras, and has hosted Kurt Vile, Morgan Delt, and Sleep in the past. Focusing on psych rock, doom, and contemporary folk, it consistently brings quality musicians to the Crystal Ballroom at the apex of Portland’s dreary seasons. Friday night was as promising as I imagined before stepping foot into the downtown bounce house.

Sanae Yamada of Moon Duo

The house lights transitioned into a blue, purple, and green luminescence as Moon Duo approached the stage, drawing us into a blurred reality. Channeling psych gods Black Angels and even industrial outcasts like Orgy, Ripley Johnson sang and played his guitar like a wildfire, blazing off into intricate guitar solos. Sanae swept over looping melodies and the drummer kept a rousing beat through their new song, “Creepin” off their latest, Occult Architecture.

Moon Duo’s early days seem unfathomable, as it’s difficult to imagine them playing a stage any smaller than the Crystal’s. The spacey atmosphere caused my mind to float to a dream state as more hazy tunes continued the legacy. Throughout their set they seemed to be in a collective meditation, eyes closed but completely present. Then just as casually as they had appeared, they exited the stage.

John of Thee Oh Sees

There’s one thing that can be said about any show Thee Oh Sees are performing at: you can always anticipate being hit with a train of people as soon as the first song starts. Regardless of which city or how outwardly normal the crowd appears, “I Come From The Mountain” liberates one and all’s inner beast. Tim Hellman’s drilling bass and the drumming pair, Dan Rincon with newly added Paul Quattrone (formerly of !!!), complete John Dwyer’s “WOO!”s and compose the best damn reason to participate in crowd thrashing. The crowd was deceivingly restful while waiting for the band to calibrate and finish their pre-show beers.


As anticipated, I dodged a woman’s head just in time for “Contraption/Soul Desert”. John’s voice, vibrant and cartoony at times, reached a full octave higher than I can remember, making old favorites shiny and new. With An Odd Entrances out, a few new distinct songs,”The Poem” and “At the End, On the Stairs” were introduced along with a few others.“Toe Cutter Thumb Buster” was suddenly peppered in, enticing the entire crowd to jump and scatter. It was clear: we were all in complete euphoria together.

John Dwyer

Despite injuring my neck the last time I saw Thee Oh Sees, I dashed into the mosh pit, fulfilling my need for a psych-soaked adrenaline rush. “Sticky Hulks” soon lowered my heart beat, completing the night to the fullest extent. I exited the venue, “The Dream” raging in my head and heart.

The dream, it seems, is peeking, into real life.